Kids of all Ages
Q: We got cable television a month ago and my two teenage daughters seem addicted to MTV. I see their behavior deteriorating. They have no motivation to do anything else and they seem more tense. Is the extra television watching the cause of this? A: Guest Expert, Anat First, PhD, answers: Unfortunately, I can't give a clear-cut answer to your question. Researchers are divided on this issue. Some claim that television is the most important factor in our media culture; that many of our images and much of what we learn and know comes from our media environment.
Elisha Avshalom, a musician and Waldorf educator, spoke with WholeFamily Parent Center Director Ruth Mason about the influence of television on children. Here's what he had to say: When thinking about television and children, it's important to consider factors beyond program content. The content is actually the most superficial part of television; there are deeper considerations. It's not just the content of television programs that may be harmful to our children; the very process of watching may be harmful as well. When a child reads a book or is told a story, he has to use his imagination to create the images he hears or reads about.
A year ago, my husband and I held our breaths and took the plunge. For years, I had been thinking that life would be better -- if not easier -- without television. I'd always limited our children to an hour-and-a-half a day, but it took a long time for me to build up the guts to get rid of the tube altogether. After all, it was a great diversion during the witching hour or when I was dying for a rest in the afternoons.
I came home from work one afternoon to find my 12-year-old son chipping away at our full-frost freezer which was so overloaded with ice that we couldn't fit another package of anything in it. My son was going at the ice with gusto, banging with an assortment of implements -- a screwdriver, a can opener and a corkscrew. He was happy. The floor was a mess, there was ice and water everywhere, but for the first time in weeks, there was room in the freezer.
Two years ago, my husband and I took a radical step: We got rid of the TV. Sort of. I could see that my then seven-year-old was becoming addicted. Television was always his first choice activity. I was getting tired of the daily fights when it was time to turn off the tube after the kids' allotted TV-watching time was up. I'd been considering taking this step for years but the day my son said he didn't want to come swimming with me because he would rather stay home and watch TV, I decided to take the plunge.
The physical act of being a child has changed drastically in recent years. Not too long ago, much of a child's physical activity during the day involved moving the legs as he ran or rode a bike and the arms as she threw a ball or climbed a tree. Of course children still do this -- but not nearly as much as they used to, especially if they live in cities. Now, many children spend much more time moving their right index finger up and down in micro-movements as they click on a mouse or their middle finger as they press the arrows on the keyboard to shoot off a missile to knock that enemy space ship out of cyber-space.
I have a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son who watch TV and explore the Net. The amounts and levels of violence and sexuality they are exposed to are mind boggling. On the one hand, I understand that their generation's value systems cannot be compared to ours, as ours were not comparable to our parents'. However, I do think that until a certain mature age, kids should be protected from overt sexuality and violence, until they reach a level of maturity where they are then able to process this input without it distorting their values.
Dear WholeMom, What is your opinion about the schools blocking certain sites on Internet? A This is not a question that can be answered in a vacuum and the question of censorship of the media is not black and white. A lot depends on the general approach of the family or of the school. It is easy for schools to block certain sites on Internet and perhaps that's what should be done because even if kids can get to it elsewhere, it is sending a subliminal message from the school: this is not acceptable to us.
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